In a resounding victory for human rights, Mauritius has shattered the chains of a centuries-old colonial legacy. On a momentous Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Mauritius boldly embraced the principles of equality, making a historic ruling to decriminalize same-sex sexual relations. With this watershed decision, the island nation has laid to rest the archaic spectre of British colonial-era anti-sodomy laws, as it declared Section 250(1) of the Mauritian Criminal Code 1838 unconstitutional, marking an end to 185 years of LGBTQ+ discrimination.
This monumental verdict emanated from the case of Ah Seek v. State of Mauritius, where the indefatigable activist, Abdool Ridwan Firaas Ah Seek, standing shoulder to shoulder with the resolute LGBTQ+ human rights advocacy group, Collectif-Arc-en-Ciel, challenged the constitutionality of Section 250. Their legal crusade received crucial support from the esteemed Human Dignity Trust.
Mr. Ah Seek, who serves as the president of Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, displayed remarkable courage in contesting the validity of a draconian law rooted in the colonial past. Section 250, a relic of British imperial rule, imposed severe penalties of up to five years imprisonment for consensual same-sex relations among adults. With the unwavering backing of the Human Dignity Trust in London, the Supreme Court of Mauritius unequivocally declared Section 250 both discriminatory and unconstitutional. In a landmark judgment, the court underscored Mauritius’ identity as a democratic secular state, asserting unequivocally that there is no justifiable grounds to intrude into the private lives of LGBTQ+ citizens.
The significance of this decision reverberates globally, offering an inspiring testament to the enduring call for equality and respect. It represents a powerful message to the Africa and the world, heralding the end of criminalization on a global scale.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation articulated the court’s recognition of the natural and inherent nature of sexual orientation, affirming that it is beyond change and a legitimate facet of human sexuality. The court resolutely held that Section 250 unfairly discriminated against gay men by criminalizing the only natural form of sexual expression available to them, while heterosexual men enjoyed the privilege of engaging in their own natural pursuits.
In a poignant social media post, the Foundation articulated, “Section 250 of the criminal code is unconstitutional and violates Section 16 of the constitution in so far as it prohibits consensual acts of sodomy between consenting male adults in private and should accordingly be read to exclude such consensual acts from the ambit of Section 250.”
Chief Executive of the Human Dignity Trust, Téa Braun, expressed profound relief at this long-awaited victory for equality and justice, a triumph that required eight years of tireless dedication and unwavering commitment.
Dimitri Ah-Yu, Vice President of Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, lauded Ah Seek for his resolute commitment to the cause, hailing the Supreme Court’s decision as a historic milestone for the organisation and the entire LGBTQ+ community in Mauritius. He underscored the collective responsibility in the battle against discrimination and the unwavering commitment to upholding fundamental human rights.
Mauritius now joins the ranks of progressive nations in southern Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa, in decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations. This historic ruling follows the Pan Africa ILGA conference, held in Mauritius approximately two months ago, magnifying the burgeoning momentum for LGBTQ+ rights across this continent.
In a world where the arc of justice continues to bend towards equality, Mauritius has boldly seized its place at the forefront, cementing its commitment to human rights, public health and the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.
This historic decision is an affirmation of the universal principles of dignity and non-discrimination and a testament to the unstoppable march towards equality and justice for all.